I was recently reading the CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals) monthly journal Update which included an article on publicity, and after discussion of all the modern electronic methods, it concluded by stating that there is still a major place for events and activities whereby you directly engage with your users. In The Bookseller there have also been a number of references recently to how independent bookshops can succeed, including the statement that the ones doing well have an active events programme and build a community of writers and readers around them.
When I had my own general bookshop, I was just outside of the main shopping area so had to get myself known. One area which appealed was children’s book selling as children have parents and grandparents who also get involved; so I decided to home in on Children’s Book Week (CBW). However, as a small shop, just myself, one member of staff and family help, I needed others to be on board, and what evolved was a district-wide involvement of shop, schools and library.
We had a planning committee which met regularly, a special bank account, and lots of enthusiasm and energy. During CBW we had author appearances in schools and at the local library - quite an achievement as we were in a remote location - a three day Book Fair and lots of other activities involving as many people as possible. One year The Book Trust had a regional competition whereby you submitted a proposal and could win £2,000 to spend. We won and as well as the cash had a visit from the Book Bus with authors and character costumes.
For funding generally we resorted to begging from local industry, the Arts Council etc., plus a percentage of the Book Fair takings got put back into the kitty. Volunteer help came via the schools who sent along their vetted parent helpers. A very brief description of a great deal of activity, but an event which really engaged with the community and ran for several years.
Translated into 2014 many elements of what we did then might have to be changed as regulations have been introduced re children’s work and the book trade is evolving. However, the basics still remain in place, and as Christians you know all about volunteers working together. The Book Trust still exists with a remit to get books to children and they still organise CBW for the first full week of October.
Raising funding these days is easier than writing dozens of begging letters because the internet has introduced crowd funding. There may be fewer publishers around but most still want to get their authors out there, and as one bookseller recently said, get your claim in as the danger is that author tours just go to the same shops all the time. Publishers, also, are still happy to give ‘see-safe’ terms for books to be used in special events, as those of you who do bookstalls and author signings will know, and there are usually plenty of publicity items around.
Now you might be thinking that for a Christian bookshop in a multi-cultural area something like CBW might not be appropriate. But ask yourself ‘why not?’. Jewish Book Week has been running since 1952 and doesn’t just feature Jewish books but also books by Jewish writers.
Not only for events but also in your stocking policyall year, have you thought about looking beyond books by Christian publishers to other publishers who publish good fiction and non-fiction with no overt Christian message? Look out for titles covering stories or facts which would appeal to Christian readers as well as those fringe Christians who need to take steps in their choice of reading as well as in their faith pilgrimage.
Let’s dream and think of a Christian Book Week/Literature Festival, and perhaps stop dreaming and make it happen!
July 10th, 2015 - Posted & Written by Together Magazine